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Cybercommunism and the Gift Culture

Hemos posted more than 14 years ago | from the interesting-author-interesting-idea dept.

News 196

A number of readers alerted us to the latest Andrew Leonard piece over at Salon. He's covering the latest Richard Barbrook book "Cybercommunism". One of the salient points of Barbrook's latest arguement is that all of this free-software/open-source is "superseding capitalism". For those who remember, Barbrook was the author of The California Ideology, a 1996 screed.

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Re:"Gift Culture" is NOT Communism (1)

jdavisp3 (13593) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690079)

"We distribute our gifts to other members of this elite class of intellectuals"

I knew there was something snobby about those Mexican school children...

Terms Like Communism and Capitolism Out of Date... (1)

vapor2000 (59123) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690080)

The world views that they describe no longer exist. Communism and capitolism are too often confused for the political systems that advocated them. The old USSR would be just as incapable of making (or even comprehending) something like Open Source as Microsoft. To call it communist is disingenious.

Ayn Rand stated as much (1)

rjreb (30733) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690081)

the fact is people contribute for their own self interest. ego is a prime motivator.

Ayn Rand []

Well, *that* was Meaningless (2)

chromatic (9471) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690092)

Let's see... exactly how does the popularity of free and open source software equate to mass ownership and control of the means of production?

What are the means of production in this case? The programming languages? The compilers? The hardware? The knowledge and experience of programmers, documentation writers, designers, and software engineers? A $20/month Internet connection? MAE-East? Cisco?

If he'd framed his thoughts in the "Intellectual Property vs. Human Achievement" debate, perhaps he'd have some modicum of a point.

Otherwise, you're stuck on the slippery slope that says that derivation and trigonometry tables are communism, self-help books are communism, do-it-yourself videos are communism....

I think the moral of this story is: Just because you aren't getting paid or receiving other benefits from open source/free software doesn't mean that no one else is -- or that everyone else would turn it down out of political or economic principles.

QDMerge [] 0.21!

Re:Open Source != Communism (1)

El Volio (40489) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690093)

Well, that and the fact that the way it's distributed can add value. And that it is done because of the profit motive, which (theoretically) doesn't exist in communism.

Whatever.. (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690094)

Communism is a political system devised to try and make socialism work in practice. It's failure is not to be found in the nationalistic mumbo jumbo of most of the americans who complain about communism. It's failure lies in the fact that it is unstable. It is unstable because it uses government in crappy ways, i.e. to repress everyone and keep them working. IMHO the free software world is more stable then the commercial software model for basically the same reason that a free market beat out communism---just replace the government with MS. Now, we can argue about wether it is socialism till we are blue in the face, but I don't think that question matters much. The only importent questions are A) is it really a better way for people to interact with one another and B) is it stable. I personally believe the answer to both of these questions is ``add more freedom.''

If you think about the RMS arguments for the GPL (and reladed stuff) you will find it is positivly dripping with stability. Example: We may assume someone will write the software anyway.. then the GPL just gives them a way to get stuff added to it for free. Remember Linus started Linux for fun.. and then think of how much less useful Linux would be to Linus if he had not given it to people.

I gues a point I wanted to make is don't worry about the word socialism.. what you do may or may not fit it's definition.. worry about more importent aspects of what you are doing. Like wether you are really helping yourself (you are not waisting your time.. fun is a good enough reason to do soemthing) and if you are hurting anyone in the process.


Re:Irony (1)

iserlohn (49556) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690095)

Yes, but doesn't anarcho-capitalism undermine the principles of both ideologies? Some sort of a naming game?

Reward can be other than monetary (1)

Gryphon (28880) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690096)

> This is why I always hated "teams" in school.
>You get assigned a project and then assigned a team to work in.
>It always worked out that I did all the work and everyone else
> in the "team" stole my work and profited from it(receiving a team score of grade A etc).

Your writing seems to indicate that you consider monetary compensation the only reward for a contribution to a larger project. Group projects can be lop-sided in school. However, once you are a professional in the real world, I think you will grow to realize that effort for others without obvious compensation can in fact be very valuable. This is a difficult thing to clearly describe, but in short, what goes around, comes around.

call it what you will (1)

darklink (79588) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690097)

free software is free. aka open , there are many software companys that make money with free software , but i take it as a gift of freedom . open sorce and free wear gives us the users a say in the development and emplimntaion of such , free software has been around for many years copy left and the whole deal , as a community i think we are an odd mix of communism but is it a communism that works or not , it is more an outlet for freedom. freedom to do what we want with the info we have where we want it . i just dont like the stigma that you get with the label of communism . over years of the cold war we have been tought to hate it , but the thing is with this form of sead communism is that it doesnt rely on every one pitching in it relys on the ppl that want to do some thing . not the ones forced to , we dont force any one to do any hting nor does any one go in with the illuion that they are getting more then gratitue with freeware , it is a gift and i take it as such , and if i can help i will.

protect the right to say "its a gift"

Re:It is communism (1)

warmi (13527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690098)

Doesn't matter. It might be voluntary but once you GPL your software you pretty much surrender your rights.

Open Source is about Freedom (3)

el_ted (61073) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690099)

Open Source is about Freedom and capitalism is not. So Open Source is anti-capitalist.
And I like to think that it is a lot anarchistic (in the sense of lack of power and lack of authority, not chaos), mainly because of it's principles of liberty, equality and solidarity. ). It is not communism because communism is autoritharian, and Open Source projects seens to be very descentralized (except for Linux where Linus Torvalds seens to be a mini-dictator). Everyone can participate, everything is free and people work on it for joy and solidarity.

Sorry but I don't speak english very well, I would talk about it a lot better in my own language (Portuguese).

I would like to note that thery is a very very very interesting article about this topic on this site, please read it even if you do not agree with anarchism or open source, it is worthy:

And for more reference about anarchism, you can get the package "anarchism" in the debian distro, or read a online faq at:

Re:It is communism (3)

PsychoSpunk (11534) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690100)

Not to rain on parades here, but freedom of information is nearly an ideal of communism. Albeit a roundabout way, no one really "owns" information if it is in the general public. Communism (True communism I should say) does not allow anyone to own property, thus the root word commune, or communal.

Take this a step further and if we (at least our govt.) says people can own ideas (IP Law...) then in a communistic sense, no one can claim ownership of ideas, thus if ideas are in the general public, they are free.

The problem with Americans (in general, cause I am an American and I have learned what communism is about) is that they look at the great socialist experiment that took place in the former Soviet Union (United Soviet Socialist Republic, anyone see that???) and mislabel it since generally Lenin was a Communist reformer. Unfortunately, Stalin wasn't, and we all see where that led Trotsky (a red fellow of Lenin's).

Now, furthermore, I have never found a communist dictator in history.

To share my own opinion about the article, personally I have to agree with the previously stated post that this community works more in the nepotistic sense (check that previous post for full details). We take in those who can, pardon the expression, hack it and generally exclude those who choose not to. How many articles have we read where the focus is usability, not cool gizmos, being the key to domination? How many "But can my mom use it...?" articles?

The sheer truth is that even though we may pride ourselves (and why Barbrook picks up the term???) as a gift community, we actually work to comprise strict division lines like "Oh, you use Windows..." and look down upon them. My fellow CS majors think I'm crazy (since our school is primarily on an NT network) cause I don't have a single box that does windows. They even dual boot. So obviously, there is some line that is drawn between us, even though I don't recall being an OS bigot and putting it there.

So, in all honesty, it's a big in-joke. We get it, people like Barbrook try to get it (and sometimes Katz can fall in that category), and then there's the people who don't even try. They don't care.

Plain and simple, it's not communist because the community is not truly inclusive of the whole population, not even the whole population of computer users.

Irony (3)

Aaron M. Renn (539) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690104)

The ironic thing about that piece I thought was that he was describing the hacker "gift culture" at the same time his own paper is limited to "non-commerical" use only. In other words, it's not DFSG compliant!

I don't agree that the hacker culture is a "communist" one. Voluntary associations and donations are very much a feature of such anti-communist systems as anarcho-capitalism as well as anarchy/communism. However, I did love the way he compared the current proprietary software industry to Stalinism.

Did I get enough -ism's in there?

Superseding Capitalism (1)

georgeha (43752) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690106)

I'll believe it when I see it, it's hard to find an ethos more primal and unbeatable than one based on greed.

KSR's Antarctica had a philosopher talking about an idealogical battle between science and capitalism, about the only new idea in the whole book (the rest being a find and replace of the Mars trilogy). He said scientists presently ruled the economy, setting it up to make enough to do science and find life enjoyable, though I don't believe it.


Communism doesn't reward hard work (0)

Jimhotep (29230) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690107)

"Red Hat's sky-high stock price
also suggests, for now, that Wall
Street has no immediate fear that
capitalism is in danger of being

One of Ted Turners TV thingys is going to
have a movie version of "Animal Farm" soon.

I just don't get it. (3)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690110)

I know this is going to kill my karma, but I'm past caring.

How can someone who uses the words "salient" and "screed" ALSO misspell "argument" and "supercede"?

Put Hemos through English 101!
"An armed society is a polite society" -- Robert Heinlein

Barbrook is a Content-Free Flamer (2)

Frater 219 (1455) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690111)

M. Barbrook appears to be a critic of the sort who makes money by selling to lit-crit fans material which would, if posted to Slashdot or USENET, be dismissed as flamage, trolling, or miscellaneous nonsense.

For another example of his postmodern "brilliance", see this Brain Tennis debate [] between him and Aaron Lynch (also not my favorite guy) on the subject of memetics.

Re:It is communism (3)

kyanite (73015) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690113)

I don't think so. Free sofware is about freedom. Many companies make a good bit of money off of free software in a totally democractic way. Free Software just makes sure that others have the freedom to do what they want with it. It is also the freedom of information that is sought by free software. If it wasn't for open source software, what would young computer scientists look to for real world examples. Freedom of information and freedom to customize what you own doesn't sound like a communistic ideal. In fact, the last I checked, freedom of information was something communism tried to suffocate. Plus, it is voluntary. When was the last time a communist dictator politely asked the people if he could volunteer to run their lives?

Words of Wisdom:

"Gift Culture" is NOT Communism (5)

Doc Hopper (59070) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690116)

Boy, one would think this guy knew his Marx and Lenin better...
AFAIK, Communism is rooted in the idea that the working man would rise up and overthrow the ruling class, distributing the fruits of labor equally to fellow proletariat. This man thinks the free software culture is communism?
Bah! Humbug!
The Internet is STILL a tiny club of culturally-elite, rich (compared to the rest of the world) burgoise representing everything despised by Marx. Despite our burgeoning population, we represent a tiny fraction of priveleged humanity trodding upon the backs of the repressed masses. We distribute our gifts to other members of this elite class of intellectuals.
The Free Software culture is far from Communism. It more resembles Nepotism, with the talented, rich few giving away to the less-talented rich few -- yet all members of the same, elite club. Maybe if we could bring the Internet to the huddled masses with no concept of computers...
But we can't even feed most of them.
I must agree with the comments noted in the review from others: The idea that the "gift culture" is communism is hogwash.

Re:Liberal Father of Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690117)

Just more evidence that Al Gore is the father of the internet !!!

Not quite communism. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690119)

While I would not agree that free software is a kind of communism (though redbaiting proprietary software vendors would certainly have you believe so), it does undermine a key component of neo-conservative thought on economics: that the greatest efficiency results from competition in the pursuit of individual financial gain.

Free software's superior efficiency is achieved through the collaborative pursuit of a given project's goals, which are as diverse as the project's participants. While this does not necessarily go against the idea of the free market, it definitely calls to question the rule of capital.

What's really subversive about free software is its anti-authoritarian nature. Transcending domination by both the carrot and the stick, it is a threat to both the Stock Market and the Gulag mentalities.

communism rocks... (1)

Crow- (35) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690120)

when compared with capitalism. America is a disgrace to mankind, I wouldn't give a shit less if we got taken over by some more powerful country. The "democracy" we have today is an illusion, do you really think your vote counts for anything when you go to the polls? No, it doesn't.

We need an "open sourced" government, where laws are written by the people and for the people,reviewed by peers and voted on by the people.

Our government is getting so large eventually its just going to collapse, they just keep adding layers upon layers of bullshit laws and regulations that its a miracle you can even wake up in the morning without breaking a law.

"Capitalism! Freedom! It's the american way!" My ass it is, if we are so free, why in the hell is 3% of our population in jail? The largest of any industrialized nation i believe, but, it's ok though cause all those people in jail are dirty, bad people and have no place in society right?

fuck america and everything it stands for

Anarchist, not Communist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690121)

Free Software is more akin to Anarchism than to Communism. And I don't mean in the "anarcho-capitalist" sense. Check out An Anarchist FAQ []

Re:It is communism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690122)

Actually, from my viewpoint, I simply define my rights on that chunk of code. I give none away, including my right to relicense my code.

Don't like the GPL? Don't use it.

Let's define communism (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690123)

Take the definition from

communism 1b) "a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed."

That sounds very much like what the Free Software (beer & speech) idea stands for. And take specifically the example given earlier about the SCSI driver. With free (speech, not beer) software, we are encouraged to fix bugs and make the fix "available to all as needed."

Communism doesn't require totalitarianism or dictatorship (but see definitions 2a-d at

Wrong Category (1)

Ignatius (6850) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690124)

Communism as well a capitalism are both ideologies founded on the concept of material ownership, while Open Source (or Free Software) is based on the immaterial properties of software, which enables me to use my neighbor's program *without* taking it away from him an thereby excluding him from using it. Therefor (without the artificial framework of copyright including its enforcement) software can neither serve as a power-preserving means of production (whose governmental control communism is demanding), nor as a commercial medium of exchange in the capitalist sense.

While OSS opposes the artificial "materialization" of software by licensing-regulations and publicly enforced copy protection which are dominating the software industry for the last 20 years, its support for the universal availability of "means of production" (i.e. sourcecode, compilers, etc.) is in direct opposition to Marxism, which demands their total control by the proletarian government, which would likewise require a "materialization" through artificial copy-regulations. (the registration of typewriters, copiers, printing presses, etc. which is common in most communist states, illustrates this practice in the field of non-computational "software")

A comprehensive political and economic system, which extends the Open Source gift-culture to "real world" affairs, im IMHO impossible unless, of course, someone finds a cheap means to losslessly copy material goods (replicators, anyone?). Until then, comparing the OSS phenomenon to communism or capitalism is trying to answer the wrong question.

Re:Communism, a FUD victim (1)

Hasdi Hashim (17383) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690125)

Communism could be summed up by the phrase "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". It has nothing to do with freedom or the lack of freedom according to any of the definitions often used on this board (speech, beer civil)

I remember in the eighties when the mass media potrayed communism as something outright evil. We even get them now on some X-files episodes. The ones communism pose a threat to are the mega-corporations. They are not willing to let their properties controlled by the states, so they spent billions to spread FUD on communism, associating it with unpopular things that has nothing to do with communism. Not that I am in favor of the ideology but I think they are getting more beatings than they deserve.

Capitalism won. With Communism, the state is control. With capitalism, the mega-corporations are in the control. The danger to individualism and freedom has not changed, only the rules of the game. If one entity is not in control, another entity will.


Re:Smelling mistakes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690126)

That's 'supersede', dude.
( defined in Playboys' Unabashed Dictionary as "Clark Kent's sperm" ).


Re:So communism is bad? (1)

warmi (13527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690127)

Because communism does not work. The whole idea is unworkable , regardless of implementation.

Re:Open Source != Communism (2)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690128)

profit, the foundation of capitalism

Just a little nitpick, but property is the foundation of capitalism. "Profit" exists in any arrangement where some investment of resources yields more value than the resources in their previous state.

Regarding intellectual property, "open source" software is very communistic, in that it distributes ownership to the community (or removes ownership altogether, which is the same thing if the community includes everybody).

Re:Irony (1)

Aaron M. Renn (539) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690139)

I don't know about that. Eric Raymond is an anarcho-capitalist, so obviously he doesn't think that is incompatible with a gift culture. Anarcho-capitalism is not even necessarily in conflict with the GNU/FSF view of free software, if you assume that software is something that is not subject to property rights. (There's a big schism among libertarians (US sense) on this one).

The key to both anarchy (or anarcho-communisim or simply communism if you prefer) and anarcho-capitalism is that both are based on voluntary associations. As long as force or private property rights aren't involved (which generally they aren't with free software), both of them explain the free software phenomeon adequately. Another thing they have in common is that neither of them exist in the real world.

Re:So communism is bad? (2)

Crow- (35) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690140)

You mean it doesn't work in a world based on scarcity. In cyberspace scarcity does not exist, it costs nothing for me to share ideas or software, therefore communism can work, just not in the "real world".

From each according to his ability... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690141)

...but you may download and use anything you want freely!

This isn't quite what Marx said, is it? Open Source is only communist towards the developers, not the users.

Marx is shuddering (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690142)

at Barbrook's piss-poor understanding of what he [Marx] thought. Look at his obvious confusion of work and labour, for example. Marx did, after all, write The German Ideology for a reason. Too bad Barbrook missed it.

Add to that all the nonsense about the "Americans" doing this (Does that mean USAmericans only, or does it include their OpenBSD comrades de la revolution in Canada and the GNOME compatriot in Mexico and the Window Maker brother-in-arms in Brazil? Does that mean the Germanic KDE isn't part of the movement? Does that....).

And then the fluff about "Californian" ideology.

And then the nonsense about net collectivism.

And then....

To be blunt, Barbrook's essay is crap.

Open Source != Communism, Linux users= ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690143)

I used to be a religious Linux user. I use FreeBSD now. One of the primary reasons I looked elsewhere was because I became disenchanted with the Linux community.
I know not all Linux users are like this, but it seems like MANY are either socialists or outright communists. There is a constant undercurrent of anti-capitalism, anti-big business, and believe it or not, anti-religion. That may be a non issue to a lot of people, but to me it was an issue. I became uncomfortable being associated with the Linux crowd as a whole. Let me reiterate, I know there are a lot of great people out there using Linux, but the most vocal aspects seem to hold contempt for my political and religious convictions.
I am not the only one who thinks this either. I have spoken to several people who have distanced themselves from the Linux community, either due to the anti-capitalism/anti-religion tone, or because so many Linux users behave so badly in defending their operating system that they dont want to be associated with that crowd.
The saddest thing is that politics is even an issue with an operating system. I have other things to worry about.

Selfishness and altruism. (2)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690144)

If hackers were truly communist, they would choose to write programs "for the greater good". Instead, most tend to write programs they are interested in. In this, open source programming is no less a selfish activity then programming for a "capitalist" boss. The only difference is that in one the coin of the realm is cool software while in the other it is cash.

People work with systems like Linux because for most of them, this is the easiest they can work on on the sorts of projects they want to work on. If they love what they do, this, in and of itself, is the motivating factor. Money doesn't enter into it.

The giving away of the software afterwords is a sort of global deal that allows hackers to work on such projects. No single hacker could build an OS. A bunch of them together can. If your goal is to build an OS, and you don't have a job at Microsoft, pretty much the only way is to share code with your buddies.

That's what drives open source, not altruism. And in that, it is as fully "greed" oriented as capitalism. Which is, of course, why it works while communist systems, relying on altruism, mostly fail.

In software there is no cost to the owner to give it away. People like the above author don't understand this and thus confuse it for communism.

Re:Hogwash. (1)

seesik (45318) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690145)

There is nothing inherently capitalist or American about the open-source movement. To me, freely contributing for the good of the greater community smacks of socialism; focusing on one's own preservation, productivity, and success seems more aligned with capitalist ideologies.

What it comes down to is this: open-source contibutors write code for different reasons. Some do it for personal satisfaction, name recognition, or because it is a challenge. Others decide to use their skills to help those who aren't as well trained or gifted, or because the enjoy being part of a massive revolutionary movement. This combination of self-satisfaction combined with actively participating in a interdependent social structure does not fall very neatly into either the socialist/communist or capitalist paradigms. And it definately is not unique to America or its people.

Re:It is communism (1)

Xamot (924) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690146)

Actually you are still the copywrite holder of the software. The GPL isn't like releasing something into the public domain (which by doing you actually do lose all rights). You can release the same version of the same software with another license. If somebody else takes your GPL'ed code they must release under the GPL(this is the virus like nature of it), but you don't have to. Your next version could be under the WSL(warmi Software Lisence). You do surrender some rights, but you should probably know exactly what your rights under any software lisence you use.


Points to be made... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690147)

There are NO true communist or TRUE democratic nations anywhere. Everything is a mixed economy. So Free software is 'communist' (If you wish to use such a vague term for anything) only in theory. Jeremy Allen --To lazy to create a login..

Re:From each according to his ability... (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690148)

If isn't really "From each according to his ability..." because developers develop what they want to rather than making the best use of their ability.

Re:Let the -ism flamage begin (1)

warmi (13527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690159)

Magically, software just gets "created" by programmers who do this on their spare time. There is however one crucial thing missing - how the heck are they going to feed their families ?
Work for commercial companies ? Good idea, but then what's the point of advocating free software anyway, since this model is obviously unable to support programmers.
Eh, I am tired of this theory. If you develop program you ought to have all the rights to your product. It is your creation, your time was spent on it. If any other programmer want's to benefit from it - sure, let him pay. This model is so fundamental, it is scary that some people sstill advocate "better" ways of doing business.

Re:Reward can be other than monetary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690160)

I do happen to work in the real world. I am not in a position to expect any sort of compensation other than monetary. So, I guess thats all I can understand with relevance to my position.

Re:It is MARXISM! (1)

BlakStone (54623) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690161)

The actual political system to which we should be comparing free software is Marxism (Karl Marx), Communism is the term used for the Marxist-based-Dictatorships we see in places like China or the old USSR. In communism, everybody is equal, except the ruling class who get special privilidges.

In Marxism everybody is equal. period. There is no special treatment or President-for-Life, just honest working people who contribute specialized skills or products to society in exchange for the basic necessities of life, and then some.

As for contribiting and not being paid..
First of all: Isn't the fact that you're making the world a better place payment enough?
Secondly: If nobody contribited then you wouldn't have that CD-ROM driver your using on your Linux box, you gotta give to get.

Re:Not communism, just common sense (1)

warmi (13527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690162)

Why should I care if there are "brains" enhancing my code ? I write software, I sell it. Customers want more features, I write another version, I sell it. If the "brains" want to improve something, they are free to start their own projects based on their ideas and experience. It is as simple as that.

A word for it: (1)

Rabbins (70965) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690163)

It is called elitism.

But I think this thread shows that many linux users are indeed, very pro-capitalism.

now the religion issue on the other hand.... probably do not want to go into that.

Re:Open Source != Communism (1)

zantispam (78764) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690164)

Something I just thought about along those lines...

"the way it's distributed can add value"

Also, the way it's supported and maintained can add value. Look at it this way. Let's say that a communist state builds a road. The workers receive an incentive of some sort to build this road to their own houses so that this one road can lead anywhere in the state(effectively adding value to the road). Now, what happens when that road starts to deteriorate and needs repairs? In the communist state, the road would effectively die, because there is no incentive to maintain the road or to try to make it better. With OS, maintaining, improving, and repairing software is another way to add value to said software.

Not a rant or a contradiction. Just an addition. I have (hopefully) added value to this thread. :-)

Re:So communism is bad? (1)

warmi (13527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690165)

It cost you a lot. Suppose you develop great new database based on some revolutionary idea. If you release source code there will be 10 different implementations on the market in no time.
I think you can answer for yourself how this would affect your income.

It's a change that needs to come (1)

blazer1024 (72405) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690166)

The world is a sick place, many of us are dependant on our computers, (Some, because they are too lazy to do their work by hand. Some, like myself, don't know much else besides computers. Plus, I'm lazy) and computers, contrary to popular belief, are not necessary to survive. If there are no computers, we would still be able to buy food, drive to the store, fly across the world, etc. Computers are just a convenience. (Another reason Y2k is stupid) We could easily live without them. (At least everyone but regular slashdot readers. :) Let's rephrase that to, the human race could go on without them. Any day we wanted to, we could say, "I don't think I'll use my computer anymore. I want to be [a mercenary; a farmer; Robin Hood; a poet; a stud muffin], and M$ would no longer have any hold over us. That's the weakness of most any capitalistic institution. The consumer has the power. If you don't buy the product, the business cannot survive. However, the consumer usually thinks that he depends on the provider for life, and never tries to wield that power. Free software is simply the people taking things into their own hands once again. Giving back to the community. Friends are more important than money. What can power bring you? Sure, world domination may be fun at first, but if everyone hates you, what have you accomplished? Do you think Gates has any friends? Sure, he has plenty of execs kissing up to him, but do they want to hang out with him? Do they want to watch the game with him? Do they want to talk with him? What does he really have? The American dream is a lie. You can never be happy. The US used to stand for freedom. Right now it stands for greed. There is nothing free in America. It's time for things to change.

Re:McCarthy Stumbles From His Grave (1)

warmi (13527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690167)

Yes. It is a political ideology. One that doesn't work. The reason it doesn't work has nothing to do with implementation but more with human character. One of the most powerfull forces driving people is greed ( very powerfull and constructive force at that .) Communism tries to modify this natural behavior which is basically impossible task.

Anarchist theory and businesses. (5)

iserlohn (49556) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690168)

Yes, I concur. Statist communism is bad. Libertarian socialism (anarchism) is good. It advocates decentralized decision making and puts freedom at the forefront of its agenda. Futhermore, individualist anarchism revolve around *free market* principles, but with workers selling their own "fruits of labor", insteal of corporation profiting from them.

If you look at the most modern management theory on worker empowerment, decentralised decision making, team building and the such, it bases itself on one common theme - The people who meet the customers and actually do the grunt work are the peopole who are most qualified and knowledgable about their work. In essence, type Y/Z management theory which trust people to actually like to work has many similarities to anarchist ideals.

This contrasts to the original capitalist assumptions that people are in fact lazy and the only motivational factor for them to work is monetary profit (ie. greed). This assumption has turned many of the world's larget companies into bloated bureaucracies such as GM (with it's 15 levels of management to supervise everyone and managment knowing jack about making cars haha). Look what cars GM made in the 80's and you will understand why capitalism, as it was originally intended, has failed.

Capitalism in its truest form exploits both employees and customers for profit. However, we do not live in a strictly capitalist world. We are heavily influenced by capitalism, and for proof, look at how the world is obsessed with intellectual property. Intellectual property is the natural way of extending capitalist control to ideas, literature, music, movies and software.

However, does capitalist property controls belong in the realms of ideas and intellectual (as opposed to physical) works. The argument GNU makes is *no*; property should be physical; ideas should be free (as in speech).

That is the reason why RMS stands so firmly on the issue why FS should not be called OSS. The political and ideological implications for free software is that is ensures the ultimate preservation for freedom of ideas; not just resulting in better software, but a better system for the world.

Futhermore, capitalism and free-market are not synonyms. They should not be used as such. It is possible to have a free-market without predominant capitalist ideals. However, many business and political elites would like us to think otherwise.

Free software, on the other hand, is one step in the right direction. It is relieving monopoly control over the intellectual ideas that they should never of had control over in the first place. They do no behave like physical property and they should not be treated as such.

Re:Open Source != Communism, Linux users= ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690169)

Yes, I feel the same way you do. I still use linux but I distance myself from the linux community.

Definition of Communism (& Libertarianism) (2)

Evan Vetere (9154) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690170)

Here are the relevant definitions from Merriam-Webster [m-w] :

  1. a theory advocating elimination of private property
  2. a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed
  3. a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production
  4. a final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably

Emphasis mine. I've only snipped irrelevent definitions.

So, in short, there are a few aspects of Communism which the Free Software movement shares. But by and large, we're the diametric opposite of Communists: we hate central authority and control, we like owning our own computers and choosing which OSes we run, and we don't like serving other people. We serve ourselves. We code for ourselves.

In stark contrast:

  • 2 a : a person who upholds the principles of absolute and unrestricted liberty especially of thought and action

I think that describes us pretty well. It's the definition of Libertarian.

Of course it's Communist ... (2)

TheJoelMan (81015) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690171)

Do you think it's just a coincidence that the Hat is Red?

Seriously though, before KM cooked up Communism, he invented Dialectical Materialism, which analyzes systems in the context of their transitions. Capitalism will bring about its own downfall because it is a stage in the evolution of our social system, just like feudalism, monarchy, and state capitalism (aka Communism).

While it should be obvious that Capitalism will have to evolve into (or be replaced by) something else, the nonobvious parts are how and when. KM had no idea that the computer was coming along. He understood what happens when human labor can be abstracted into a machine, but what happens when the machine is abstracted into software?

Have a good weekend.

Re:Communism, a FUD victim (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690172)

Wrong. If you want "From each according to abilities, to each according to needs" then someone has to determine who needs what. You can't be allowed to determine for yourself what you need, because human greed will always exceed available resources. Therefore there's no way out. Communism has to be repressive.

With capitalism, the corporations are not in control at all. They can't force you to buy anything, and they generally don't refuse to sell anything to you. Unlike communism, you make your own decisions. You're only limited by your own ability to produce.

Amen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690188)

America's got democracy like the Soviet Union had socialism. The economic decisions of the Soviet Union were quite demonstrably not in the hands of its people--thus it was not socialism. Likewise, since in the US major political and economic decisions are not made by its people ninety percent of the time, it is a ten percent democracy. Gotta luvit.


Somewhat related read: (1)

.pentai. (37595) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690189)

A friend of mine wrote a paper partially touching on the "communism" of the net:
(note, I recommend going to and following the links to get the full effect of the site...)

Anyways, it speaks of how since things can be copied indefinately the net is the one place where communism could work...
Read if you're interested, else, umm, don't

R.B. Goes FUD (1)

kuroineko (71801) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690190)

Really, seems like Mr. Barbrook has just picked up a couple of phrases here and several words there....
1. SU has never had a priority goal in IT/CS. There were '3 whales': ideology, military strength and space program. Everything that could help 'the whales', was blessed by the govt.
And certainly we were good at it. Just compare how many SU cosmonauts and US astronauts have _actually_ been to space. Technical education in SU was rather classical
and based on heavy math. These days mathematicians from different defsnse and space program help out with poor COBOL design to fix
Y2K in software produced in US and used there and sold to Russia. Soviet nuclear weaponry doesn't suffer from this problem.
2. R.B. insists that US weapons are unbeatable and all that. There's no such a weapon by definition. Also, this depends too much on
the hand that pushes the button. And he could pay more attention to 'independent' press on Kosovo massacre held out by NATO. I mean
media in countries not directly involved in the conflict (Asia, Africa, there's the whole world around us, really)
3. This part I 'loved' the most and couldn't get past it: "Managers and other professionals".... Oh boy....
Please, get me right. I grown up in SU and know about it probably more than anyone other in /. I don't idealize it, in no way....

Re:It is communism (1)

warmi (13527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690191)

That's true. But once something is GPL, everybody can benefit from my work, regardless of their contribution to the "system". This is precisely why communism doesn't work.

Looks like Hemos is testing the new system (1)

ChiChiCuervo (2445) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690192)

Can primary posts be labeled? It seems to me that this post should be labeled "flamebait"

... If only I weren't so busy today, I'd take this one on. Gift Culture is Communism, bah. Talk about grasping for straws...

Ayn Rand stated as much? (1)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690193)

Well, I guess that settles it then.

Wasn't she also a big fan of thinking for oneself?

Open source is not... (1)

Axe (11122) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690195)

... the first area where the idea of free information sharing, peer review and freedom to use and improve on the work of other is used. Millennium of natural science research comes to mind. Somehow I would hesitate to label my fellow physicists - "communists" for giving public access to the data from our experiment. Open Source movement is not different. It is just applying the principle developed by generation of scientists to a new area of human knowledge.

McCarthy Stumbles From His Grave (3)

Mr. Mikey (17567) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690197)

It's 1999, and some of us are STILL trying to use the term "Communism" as some sort of epiphet.

Bah, I say! My parents were driven out of Cuba because Fidel Castro, a self-styled Communist, managed to take power. You won't find a more anti-communist environment than South Florida (were many of the older generation still refer to themselves as "in exile"). Whether what goes on in Cuba would be what Marx called Communism is another matter.I spent the first 27 years of my life hearing about the evils of Communism, and seeing its effects on those who made it here. I certainly am no friend of Communism as it has been implemented in the real world. You'd think I'd automatically end up a foaming-at-the-mouth anti-communist. Guess what...

Let's get this straight once and for all: Communism is a political ideology. It is NOT synonymous with "evil" or "baby killer" or whatever the hell else people want to label it as so as to better hitch their ideological little red wagons to.

You disagree with someone's politics? Fine. Just don't be so lazy as to throw the term "communism" around as a substitute for rational thought. The only "Evil Empire" we face today is Darth Vader's. Rational people of good conscience should be able to discuss politics (even as heretical a concept as "capitalism has flaws") in a civilized manner. We shouldn't settle for less.

Re:Free Software is both. (1)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690199)

Hmmm. Just a quick question, but *has* RHAT really demonstrated a profit yet? I was under the impression that they weren't expected to do so for a few years, but eh.

Communism, Marxism, Free Software (1)

cthonious (5222) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690200)

Free Software is NOT communism, although one supposes it could be viewed from that angle.

Marxist communism is not just an economic theory, but an entire cosmology. I also see a lot of people comparing the USSR with Marxism - this is wrong. Marxism is quite fantastic (as in fantasy) and rather bizarre, and very few people here seem to have any grasp of what it is.

That said, he does make some good points - Free Software is extremely anti-capitalistic: it is anarchic, but I fail to see anything to do with Marxism in it. Free Software is more like Bakunin's ideal rather than Marx's.

Just because libertarians such as ESR desire to filter everything through their special Rand-glasses doesn't mean egoism is the only angle. We've been beaten with this egoistic crap from day one ... I find Stallman's "free speech" approach far more refreshing than the usual libertarian appeals to capitalism and other free market nonsense.

Hogwash. (0)

Stormbringer (3643) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690208)

It's as capitalist as the Gillette safety razor, as American as barn-raising.

One other little distinction: communism, instituted by force, failed wherever it was tried. Open-source, appealing to rational self-interest, is winning.

Oops (1)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690209)

If he'd just referred to it as "gift culture" or something like that, he might've gotten some honest consideration. But use of the oh-so-scary c-word condemns his ideas to oblivion, at least in the US.

Quick, somebody post something about how "communism" "lost" the Cold War. I need a good laugh today.

Did I miss the point? (2)

housefly (79747) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690210)

Does Barbrook have a problem with public libraries? After all, they subvert capitalism by letting people read books without buying them.

Giving away the secrets of math used to be a crime punishable by death (think of the Pythagoreans). Good thing all we have to worry about is capitalism.

Open Source != Communism (4)

El Volio (40489) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690212)

Sorry, but I'm going to have to take issue with this. An information "gift economy" does not supersede capitalism; that's ridiculous.

Look at it: An information gift economy (the focus of the Salon piece) essentially allows information to be free (as in speech, not beer, according to the hallowed cliche). Does that mean that the info has no value? No, it means that information's value increases as it spreads. Essentially, it's the distribution of information that becomes important. Linuxcare and RedHat are good examples of this. Linuxcare offers support services, right? The information they provide is essentially already available if you know where to look and how to interpret it. But by providing it in a different format to people who don't know where to look or how to interpret the information themselves, there is value. And I daresay that the founders of Linuxcare were motivated (at least in part) by profit, the foundation of capitalism. RedHat is perhaps a better example, since they freely give away the OS via the Net, and allow you to redistribute copies of what you do buy. Again, the value comes from providing support information and services.

To take it a step further, yes, I can find all the information I want about, say, firewals on the Net. But I still own the O'Reilly book Building Internet Firewalls because there is so much information condensed that having it in book format is valuable. And as Tim O'Reilly has pointed out recently :) profit is among his motivations. Fine, that's the way the world works.

Taking a look away from the information economy (which is still far smaller than the rest of the economy), capitalism is in no real danger. Think GM's going to start giving away cars and trucks to just anybody? How about DeBeers opening up that warehouse?

C'mon folks, let's not get carried away. Information should be free, but that doesn't mean that people aren't going to try to get ahead in life. That's the profit motive, and that's human nature.

Re:It is communism (3)

Bombcar (16057) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690213)

Communism is simple, perfect, and not doable in the real world. The theory is great, but people's greed never allows it to work. It will work for awhile, and then crumble. (Cross reference USSR, communes, etc.) But in software, where it costs noone any money to duplicate software, it can work. But people don't want to call GNU, *BSD, Linux, etc "Software Communism," because of the connotations of the word "communism." But think: It is the efforts of all going to help all, ie, Alan Cox makes a SCSI driver. Now every one has access to that SCSI driver; it has gone into the collective pool. Now in physical communism, the pool grows and shrinks, depending on how many people add work, food, money, etc, and how many people take these things out. But in software, the pool can only grow. So when I download a SCSI driver, it doesn't prevent anyone else from downloading the same driver. It's where it is at.

But It's Postmodern! *snicker* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690216)

Unfortunately, in certain circles, you can slap the label "postmodern" on 500 screens of line noise and some of these fools will eat it up and talk about how deep and meaningful it all is and/or how it perfectly captures the emptiness of modern life. Blah. Not exactly my favorite thing, and all the more irritating because social critics who actually have something worthwhile to say (such as, IMHO, Noam Chomsky) get drowned out by stupid meta-sound-bites like "The Medium is the Message" or, worse, "Kill Your Television."

It's massively annoying, what can I say? But it sells to shallow people who like to prove how deep they are.

Nah... (1)

Rabbins (70965) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690218)

What this really points out, is that we are moving from a goods-based economy, to a service-based economy. That is still very much capitalism.
The internet is not going to change fundamental human greed :)

Re:It is communism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690219)

Why should I do something for others and not expect payment of some sort in return? That's the problem too many of communistic proponents have. They think that you should work and donate your output to an economy even though there are those within that same economy who choose not to work. This is why I always hated "teams" in school. You get assigned a project and then assigned a team to work in. It always worked out that I did all the work and everyone else in the "team" stole my work and profited from it(receiving a team score of grade A etc)

Wacko alert (1)

ajs (35943) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690222)

I quickly decided to stop reading the California article sometime after:

"The Californian Ideology reflects this ambiguity by simultaneously advocating the New Left utopia of the electronic agora and the New Right's vision of the electronic marketplace. "

He then goes on to refer to both of the above-capitalized groups as "anarchists". I don't know about the rest of you "New Left"ists, but I'm neither left nor anarchist. If pressed, I would say that I'm a very moderate right hardcore-capitalist. Oh well, just another mouth that emits signal/noise 1....

Re:These arguments don't compute... (1)

plunge (27239) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690227)

Of course you've lost something! Time- labor. For some reason people treat these as non-resources, when they are basically the foundation of all resources.... Capitalism actually doesn't have system for deterimining who gets what, orginally, unless you can consider "first come first own" a system. This is basically because property arose before government enforcement of property rights- which really makes things pretty screwed up politically. There really isn't any "just" way for anyone to have oringally come into permanent ownership of a natural resource, which the major problem with moral justifications of capitalism. But as far as software, the point isn't JUST to distribute it freely, but also to CREATE scarcity in certain areas that you cann profit off of, like service, further features, etc. So really it's not all _that_ different.

Re:Well, *that* was Meaningless (1)

TaxSlave (23295) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690228)

I've come to believe that some people have so much hatred for capitalism that they're willing to see positives in communism where they don't even exist.

Open source is no more "communist" in nature than recipe exchanges are. On the contrary, I see it as quite the capitalist venture.

The reason these open source projects come about is because there is demand for them, and demand begets supply.

Some people, though, don't require the return on their investment to necessarily be money. If you gain a tool that takes care of a job you need to do, then you've gotten your value. Open source allows you to get that value by gaining access to the work of others. If you're going to go this route, however, you are expected to help the movement along in some way.

Better products at a lower price. That's capitalism at its finest.

Of course, open source is hardly the only way you can go. That's another great thing about the capitalist system. Communists don't need choices :)

Of course, I'm willing to pay for good software. That's why I spent good money on OS/2 and OS/2 applications as long as it met my needs. The good software, though, is now available at a better price. I can get it free.

Microsoft, on the other hand, is making software that doesn't quite measure up to my needs, is problematic for many of my needs, is very hard to configure for my needs, and costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars to purchase the software needed to meet my needs.

Anyone who has seen what communism and other controlled economy simulations can do to a country can see that M$ is easily the best choice for communists :)

Re:These arguments don't compute... (0)

plunge (27239) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690229)

Of course you've lost something! Time- labor. For some reason people treat these as non-resources, when they are basically the foundation of all resources....

Capitalism actually doesn't have system for deterimining who gets what, orginally, unless you can consider "first come first own" a system. This is basically because property arose before government enforcement of property rights- which really makes things pretty screwed up politically. There really isn't any "just" way for anyone to have oringally come into permanent ownership of a natural resource, which the major problem with moral justifications of capitalism. But as far as software, the point isn't JUST to distribute it freely, but also to CREATE scarcity in certain areas that you cann profit off of, like service, further features, etc. So really it's not all _that_ different.

Not communism - the gift culture is a pursuit of s (1)

Greg Titus (11738) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690230)

I agree with the posters who are saying that open source software isn't communism, because communism is a mechanism for deciding how to distribute scarce resources, and that just doesn't apply to software which can be duplicated indefinitely.

I think the open source movement is really a parallel of Pacific Northwest Indian culture before the Europeans arrived. Food and raw materials were so plentiful and easy to get that you didn't have to work that hard to survive. Instead they held great polatches, feasted, and tried to outdo each other giving incredible presents. The culture was impressed by what you gave away, not by what you had - because just having was too easy.

Anyone in a position to really benefit from and appreciate open source software is usually in the same position: there is huge demand for the kind of work that we do, we generally don't need to worry about making enough money to eat or to live a decent life. We also all know how random and capricious the big money is - from the rise of Microsoft to the latest IPO, we all know that people aren't neccesarily getting rich through merit alone.

Giving away our skill and our time, and in such a way that other people within our little hacker sub-culture can be impressed with what we've done - that is what drives open source software. Because there is little else that does impress our peers.

This may be just my cynical take on human nature, but I think this pursuit of status is much closer to the true spirit of open source than any sort of uber-communism or desire to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others.(Not that this is a bad thing - using an innate human drive in a productive way for society is great, the same way capitalism mostly manages to use greed in a good way.)

Re:communism rocks... (1)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690231)

Freedom includes the ability to be an asshole, and then the responsibility to pay for it. If that means fines, incarceration or execution, so be it: determine thyself, and be treated accordingly.

FWIW, it's the laws that at least partly make you free; in a system without a written Constitution and body of laws that guarantees rights to the people, it's the lack of such that allows blatant dictatorship because the leaders can act without constraints. Or, do you think that folks like Beria or "Iron Felix" Dzerzhinsky worked primarily through written law?

Hardly Communism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690232)

Let's see...

a) The Market has had various software OS offerings available (Windows, UNIX, MacOS). None of these offerings have had all of the features that certain software developers need. So, they set out to write they're own - and they did. GNU / Linux competes on the very same Market as these other products in the real world, and quite effectively I might add. Free Software helps people make money - just like a hammer helps a carpenter make money. And developers release it GPL to ensure that it continues to evolve and improve over time without needless restrictions and roadblocks. Seems pretty Free Market-spirited to me!

b) Free Software authors do not write Open code out of some altruistic or collectivist notion. They do it because they want Software that Doesn't Suck(TM), and they want the notoriety that goes along with having written said non-sucking software. Individualism, creativity, and genius are rewarded in turn - not 'the public interest'. If the 'public' benefits from good software tools, then great - but nothing says they have to. The Public is nothing more than a gob of individuals who are free to accept or reject Free Software at their whim.

c) Unlike Statist Communism, GNU GPL, BSD, QPL, NPL, etc. are NON-COERSIVE agreements between free entities. No one says that you HAVE TO FREE YOUR CODE. As a developer, you can choose to because you perceive the POTENTIAL FOR BENEFIT TO YOU AND YOUR PEERS IS HIGHEST if you do. No one is forced to release their software GPL. You can just as easily draft a EULA-type license. And all these licenses, technical models, and business models can compete on the Free Market exchange of services, products, and ideas - with no coersive agencies whatsoever.

Also, from a user standpoint, you are free to reject any license you wish. Nobody's making you use Free Software either. If it sucked, I sure as hell wouldn't use it! I would use Windows NT for everything if it were the best solution for my needs!

Don't try and convince me that Linus, RMS, and ESR are Marxists! I just don't buy it. In fact, they're very selfish. ; ) They want the best software free people, allowed to express their creativity and genius, can produce.

This is not 'communism', nor even 'consumerism'. This is 'producerism', if that's a word. ; )

"He who writes the code picks the license."


Thank you for pointing this out! (1)

ChiChiCuervo (2445) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690234)

As a fervent Anti-Communist, I appreciate that someone else actually understands the relationship between Communism/"Communist" Countries/Socialism.

Both sides could go along way with this understanding, Anti-Communist AND "Anti-Anti-Communist".

Re:It is communism (1)

Rabbins (70965) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690235)

Now, furthermore, I have never found a communist dictator in history.

Well, no, they are contradictory terms.
However, as Orwell is so adept at pointing out, this has a way of taking shape.

Stalin used Marxist ideas as a means of having absolute control (dictator), which by all means, he did have.

The thing behind communism (not necesarily Marxism) is that there does need to be a revolution by the people. However, there needs to be a leader... then, there needs to be a system (government) put in place that will implement the seeds of Marxism, until government is no longer necesary and a true anarchy reigns.

My point is, is that almost all dictators throughout history have risen to power sporting Marxist ideals. They are doing this to over throw the tyranical government, in order to give the *people* power. In order to accomplish these goals, they argue the need for absolute control!
These contradictions/double-think are the largest problems with communism.

Where the Communism is (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690238)

Free Software is not Communism as it stands now, but the idea that a person who has not earned it has a "right" to software written by somebody else is espoused by Richard Stallman, and is communistic. His GNU philosophy page suggests that the GPL is only a compromise, an interim solution, so that his system can be realized in part while copyright law is still in force. But his ultimate aim, he explains, is to eliminate copyright law altogether. The world that would be created by such a change presents quite a different picture from the way things are now.

As the GPL is now, people are asked to place their programs under it voluntarily. Some people can afford to, and they like to show off their programs, so they do. As long as that voluntary spirit continues, no one's rights are violated -- not those of authors, not those of users, not even those of businesses, who have no right to stop competition of any kind (and if they have any confidence in their own abilities, they don't ask for any). It's all rather benevolent, in fact; competition is in the spirit of play.

But when Richard Stallman says that copyright law should be eliminated, he's saying that programmers should not have any choice about how to make money from their coding -- or, more accurately, that they should have only one: "write Free code, or do not write at all." Some people could code anyway, the same way they do now, but there would be a difference: their choice to do so would now be meaningless.

Also, all the most popular non-free software would vanish, and John Carmack would be out of a job... and any job he could get would pay much less. By what right do people ask this of him -- but worse, by what right do they dare take it without asking?

If copyright is eliminated, what becomes of the rights of people who create software in the first place? Suddenly anybody who sees code can copy it. So coders have to code in secret, so nobody steals their work in progress; they have to make it arcane, so they can charge for teaching about it; they have to find rich sponsors who are willing to pay all in advance, lest someone steal their work in progress, complete it, and present it for the same payment before they do... and how rich will these patrons be, considering that much of the riches of this century were made selling proprietary software! Thus, software publishers and their writers are "sacrificed for the public good."

Remember, the communists sought to establish "freedom," too, in their own way, by sacrificing certain other individual rights in the name of the public good. But the public good cannot be achieved through sacrificing some people to others. There is no right to take the fruits of someone else's labor. It is beside the point whether those "fruits" really are fruits, or durable goods, or intellectual goods (which are the most durable of all). You have to have the owners' consent to use his property. If other people don't need your consent to take the fruits of your labor -- then you're their slave. And the idea of a "right to enslave" makes a mockery of the idea of natural, equal, inalienable rights.

As things are now, no one has any right to stop you from giving away the software that you wrote, based on your own ideas. Because of that, Open Source software is here to stay, and it will always present powerful competition for any would-be monopolists who want to set arbitrarily high prices and restrictions. (Just like anybody else who offers lower prices and fewer restrictions.) However, no one has any right to force you to give your work away, either. And that is the way it should stay!

If you want to sell licenses for money, and you think you can beat the risk of Free Software writing a clone (which actually isn't too hard, considering how many commercial programs there are that still haven't been cloned), go ahead. When that right dies, the real Free Software that everybody knows and loves dies with it.

-- An Ayn-onymous Coward

Re:Wrong Category (1)

kuroineko (71801) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690240)

I hate to say this, but your rate on Marxist-Leninist ideology is 'non-satisfactory' (the lowest BTW and you have to
pass the exam again :)
1. Niether communism, nor capitalism are _ideologies_. They are political formations.
2. Marx builds his theory on definitions on property _and_ labor. In other words if you are using neighbours program
without his permission, you still violate the law, because you use fruits of his labor.
3. Computer hardware still remains basic mean of production and in 'proletarian state' it could be available, although
not to everyone and through govt regulations, whereas OSS doesn't provide the movement with hardware of any kind.
(Sometimes I regret there's no national/global body issuing computer licenses- some kiddies are fscking annoying :)
But I completely agree with you that we can not compare political formations with
movements and initiatives of any kind.

Re:It is communism (1)

warmi (13527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690247)

GPL does away with one rights to property he created. Sounds like communism to me ..

Not communism, just common sense (1)

Gryphon (28880) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690248)

It seems to me that the "gift culture" is not communism -- to me, it could be more accurately described as an outgrowth of the scientific method -- the free sharing of ideas, publishing of work for peer review, et cetera.

Earlier today we had a great discussion about Knuth, and the TeX software. It seemed to me that he released the software as "open system software" simply because it made sense -- more people would use it because it was free, and because it would improve as bugs are found by users.

If one chooses to look at the "gift culture" and free software from a pure business angle, I think that one could potentially make more money from selling "services" and the "brand" rather than the compiled "intellectual property". Red Hat's stock price comes to mind.

Personally, I would say the "gift culture" and free software is a natural evolution of the software development process. I love the idea that any code I publish under the GPL will grow and mature (almost virally, as described in the article) as more eyeballs and brains improve the program. Labels of any kind on the "gift culture" are not terribly appropriate or accurate, least of all, "communism".


Re:Wacko alert (1)

ajs (35943) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690249)

Oops. Got hit by the infamous slashdot text-is-not-text. That was signal/noise 1

Free Software is both. (1)

richnut (15117) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690250)

As RedHat has clearly demonstrated, it's totally possible to make money on Free Software. RMS and the GPL might be commmunist in philosophy, but their implementation in the real world is based only on capitalism. Free Software is a success because it's making (or saving) money for people. Free software cant superceed capitalism in a capitalist society, the best it can hope to do is prevent the capitalists from being facists by allowing the people their own choice. You'd better bet the capitalists will figure out how to make money on that.


Re:It is communism (1)

kyanite (73015) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690251)

The point of the matter here is the word freedom. Linus himself has even said that the Free in Free Software also means Freedom. Communism does not support freedom. All of the nice growing pools and stuff don't count for much against that. Perhaps people have forgotten what all of this is about. People volunteer for this. If Alax Cox writes a SCSI driver, I have the freedom to choose to help with that or go write something else, or even write my own SCSI driver. In communism, you are told what you will do. No freedom there. Just because people don't usually ask for money, that doesn't make it communism.
Words of Wisdom:

Please not another misnomer (1)

veldrane (70385) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690252)

I really don't want media to go nuts on this and start calling me a "Cyber Commie." Its bad enough that they refuse to discern between hackers -n- crackers.

Speaking of which, I wish I could remember who asked me what the difference between a hacker and a saltine was. ;)


Let the -ism flamage begin (1)

Bishop (4500) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690253)

Comparing free software (thought, not beer) and the "gift-culture" to various -isms is a topic that seems to show up fairly often. Invariably the "debate" degenerates into a flame fest as too few people really understand what the various -isms really mean (myself included). The general mistake made is that communism and socialism are equated with a lack of rights and a repressive government. While several very repressive governments have claimed communism it is usually not practiced. Conversly several rather sucessfull socialist democracys exist (Canada, Sweden, and Finland to name a few.)

While the communism vs. open source comparision is valid I would suggest it is more of a socialist democracy. The philosophy of free and open software for everyone is socialist. The fact that the best software gets used (ie elected) is democracy.

Re:Open source movement is anything but rational (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690254)

Countless numbers of people use substandard software in a futile attempt at making themselves appear smarter than everyone else, because the software itself is inherently difficult to use. They also contribute to a "group" project(In the form of drivers etc) and expect nothing in return for their efforts,, now that IS NOT rational!!

These arguments don't compute... (4)

Ami Ganguli (921) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690255)

The ideas of capitalism and communism are rooted in the problem of how to best divvy up scarce resources. There's only so much food, land, oil, etc. to go around. If I have a barrel of oil and I give it away, I've lost something (the use of the oil). Therefore there has to be some system for determining who gets what.

Software works in the opposite way. If I give away a piece of software I write and other people use it, I haven't lost anything (I can still use the software myself). In fact, the software I have actually becomes more valuable if more people use it: 1/I'll be able to exchange files with other people (this is why MS Office is so 'valuable'), 2/I'll get bug fixes and improvements from other people.

In other words, giving away my software is the greedy thing to do. Schemes intended to facilitate distribution of other kinds of wealth just aren't needed.

Re:It is communism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690256)

GPL is pretty communist. :D The BSD-style licensing love great OSes. Think about it (seriously)
Code licensed under the BSD-style license can be used to improve every OS. Isn't that what you people want? _EVERYONE_ to run a good OS?
Your Free OS gets improved. The commerical OS gets improved. Win-win, no?
plus noone develops for a GPL'd project that doesn't believe in free software: so there isn't any more of a fear of abandonment.

MS Haters use Linux. Good OS lovers use FreeBSD

(posted by a regular user who has to worry about karma) _I DO NOT REPRESENT ANYONE BUT MYSELF_

Re:It is communism (1)

costas (38724) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690268)

I am probably gonna get flamed for this... I don't believe that Free Software is about Freedom. Freedom is a very, very important word to be used for anything materialistic , i.e. redundant (think of it this way: would you rather live without software or without freedom?).

Having said that, I thingk that Free Software makes sense; it ultimately brings the good engineering practices of other specialties (mechanical, electrical engineering, etc) to software. Case in point: if Mr. Benz (one of the earliest internal combustion engine makers) made his first engines in such a way that the mechanics were hidden from the outside, would we have the same level of automotive technology today? I doubt it. Free Software allows software engineers to adapt other people's work to their own, much like 'hardware' engineers can...

By extending this one step further though, you can argue that Free Software is ultimately capitalistic: it levels the playing field for any newcomer to adapt existing technological infrastructure and enter the market succesfully (and, most importantly profit personally from it).

OTOH, a software monopoly, like MS's is much more like communism: a central, 'benevolent' authority distributes the same service/goods to everybody, making everybody 'equal', making the quality of the services/good irrelevant.

In one word, as someone else posted, hogwash...

Re:It is communism (0)

kyanite (73015) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690269)

Perhaps you forgot the donation part. GPL does not have people go out and take other's rights away. If I write a cool piece of software, I can DONATE it to GPL if I wish. Or, I can sell it. Or, I can sell it and make the source available to others I wish. Tell me how that involves communism.
Words of Wisdom:

Re:Open Source != Communism (1)

iserlohn (49556) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690270)

To make your point short, you mean the intellectual property such as software, should not be treated as physical property, because its value increase with every distributed copy.

Woohoo.. There you go :)

Communism (2)

BugMaster ChuckyD (18439) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690271)

It might be useful here to point out that "Communism" is not the same as the former Eastern Bloc/Soviet totalitarian states. In several posts people are talking about dictators and freedom of information, but the repression in the former "Communist" countries has nothing to do with the idea of Communism.

Communism was an idea, a way of organizing economies, the countries refered to claimed to be attempting to implement this idea, but most didn't even claim to have met that ideal and refered to themselves as "Socialist". It also must be pointed out that many countries that profess to be capitalist also are just as repressive as the communist ones were.

Marx had a lot of economic theories about the future of the relationship between the people who do the wrok and the people who own the resources and the means of production, and postulated a better system that could be implemented once the former group had finaly cast off the chains imposed on them the latter.

Communism could be summed up by the phrase "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". It has nothing to do with freedom or the lack of freedom according to any of the definitions often used on this board (speech, beer civil)

This guy obviously doesn't understand a damn thing (2)

agtofchaos (56094) | more than 14 years ago | (#1690272)

If you read some of the libertarian and anarchist content on the net you should know that there are 2 forms of socialism: -statist socialism-government uses coercion to get people to work together -libertarian socialism-groups of people work together peacefully to make society better, almost no government here. I could be wrong, but I would bet that most OSS developers are libertarian, not statist socialists. Let's face it, CSS (closed source) will never die.... but it won't have the facist style grip it has economy now in the future. Loop at apple, OSS'ing OS X! They are capitalists people, not communists. As far as the GPL goes, it is only 1 part of the OSS movement, the most radical one. Allowing the proponents of GPL only OSS to define OSS would be like allowing puritans to define christianity.

So communism is bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690273)

Why are everyone hasting to decline that open source could be communistic?

I'm not saying it is, just getting annoyed of the (mandatory) communism-bashing..

(From a European)

Re:Nah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1690274)

Exactly. And those who have the skills to give software away are further securing their position in the capitalist society by making themselves highly marketable.

But if this Commie revolution does continue to move forward will our armed forces have to do that stiff-legged marching thing? I really miss that.

Maybe the revolution will be televised after all.

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